When it comes to music, finding the right chemistry in who you play with is just as important as finding the right chemistry in what you play.
For Memphis, Tenn.-based alt-country rockers Lucero, they found the right stuff 15 years and eight albums ago.
The soul of Lucero has remained the same over the years with the quartet of Ben Nichols (guitar and vocals), Roy Berry (drums), John C. Stubblefield (bass) and Brian Venable (guitar) making up the core, they've continually added and subtracted to the lineup.
With their most recent contribution, "Women & Work," the writing process was integrated with keys and a horn section, a tribute to their Memphis home.
"They've (horn section) been with us for a couple of years before this record, so they were more a part of the band," Stubblefield said in a phone interview from Alabama. "The horn section was an integral part of the band that was really considered in the writing process. We explored a little bit more and had some moments of growth. It was finally realized in its fullest potential."
Recent additions Rick Steff (piano, organ and accordion) and horn players Jim Spake (saxophone) and Scott Thompson (trumpet) brought a different life to the band and blend effortlessly into "Women & Work."
Released in March of last year, their eighth studio offering was helmed by ATO records. Alongside Lucero, ATO produces several staples of the music industry, including Alabama Shakes, Drive By Truckers, Trey Anastasio, My Morning Jacket, Les Claypool and Jonny Fritz, who will be opening for Lucero Jan. 27 in Savannah.
Marked as punk country or alt-country, the band has evolved to a more mature, Americana-based rock 'n' roll ride with these last few albums. Nichols' whiskey-coated vocals, accented by a light twang, keep the band close to its Southern roots, while the group as a whole is compared with acts like early Bruce Springsteen and The Clash.
The addition of horns into the latest version of Lucero is something that summons the heart of the Memphis sound. Lucero's journey through the years seems to have brought the group full circle to the place that birthed them.
"It's in the water," Stubblefield said with a laugh. "The proverbial water. Even growing up, no matter where you're from, to a certain degree, everyone has got that sense of rebellion. You want to be from anywhere than from any small town U.S.A. We definitely went through all that ourselves. And then as you grow up, you sort of rediscover your roots. I know that's a cliche. But I think everyone kind of goes through that. I think of late, that's where some of us have been."
Stubblefield found an old copy of the band's 2001 self-titled album and then found something he wasn't expecting. During the early days, he played almost entirely on an upright bass and unintentionally echoed musicians of Memphis' past.
"It kind of harkens back to those first Sun Records," Stubblefield said. "Your first Johnny Cash, Elvis and Carl Perkins. That was a big revelation, when I went back and listened to that. It's just where we're from. We can't help it. It's kind of integrated into us. I think our influence is Memphis, Tenn."
Lucero's show at The Jinx this week is completely sold out. But don't fret if you miss it. Lucero has been called one of the hardest working bands, with 150-200 tour dates a year for the last 10 years, so they're sure to be back in Savannah soon. They seem to like it here, as well.
"I like that you guys haven't torn everything down, and sort of repurposed some of the old buildings," Stubblefield said. "It's a great feel, and of course everyone over at The Jinx, they're good homies. It should be a good rock 'n' roll show."